Tis’ the season for a list of gift books for the holidays!
So, once again ’tis the season for a post about holiday gift books, at least judging by the recent appearance of an abundance of similarly themed articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times.
First off, we have press authors Laura Dassow Walls and Alice Kaplan with their recent biographies of Henry David Thoreau and Albert Camus respectively taking two of the top fifty nonfiction slots in a recent article, “100 Notable Books of 2017” from the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
The Times editors write of Walls’ book, “This new life of Thoreau, in time for his 200th birthday, paints a moving portrait of a brilliant, complex man.”
And of Kaplan’s Looking for The Stanger, “Impressive research illuminates the context and history of Camus’s classic novel.”
Not sure who has the time or the money to travel with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but wouldn’t you like to escape it all for a minute or two? Well, maybe you can at least fantasize about actually getting a little R&R over your holiday break with some of the recommendations in this recent NYT article on travel books that included some very positive words for Madeleine Bunting’s Love of Country: A Journey through the Hebrides.
As Bunting’s book makes clear, the hundreds of small islands that speckle the waters off Scotland’s northwest coast featuring dramatic rocky cliffs and roiling waves are definitely a location to add to one’s bucket list, but perhaps better to wait a few months as the current forecast for the Hebrides calls for 100% probability of catching a cold, with a 40% chance of hypothermia.
Actually, not sure if the forecast over there ever changes that much, but apparently it’s perfect weather for producing great writing, as demonstrated both by Bunting’s eloquent exploration of the region, and the long tradition of English writers who escaped to the islands, whose journeys are also detailed in her book.
Next up, from the Los Angeles Times’s recent list of “great stocking stuffer books”, is a title edited by one of the few people on earth who can make the common ant an interesting enough topic to transform even the most casual of readers into armchair myrmecologists: Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice’s Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of California.
And in case you don’t happen to live in California, Dr. Spicer Rice’s books of common ants also cover Chicago and New York. The series even throws a bone to those not lucky enough to live in one of America’s ant infested urban metropoli with a more general guide book to the common ant species of North America.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go toss a leftover doughnut under my coworkers cubicle wall. For science. Just kidding.
Keeping with a nature theme, the Wall Street Journal also recently published a series of articles on holiday gift book recommendations, including multiple Press titles in their “What to Give: Books on Nature” column.
Barbara J. King’s Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat and The Book of Caterpillars edited by David G. James took two of the six slots in the guide. The WSJ praises King’s book for its detailed examination of our current scientific understanding of animal minds and its level headed critique of the moral and ecological implications of our interactions with them.
David G. James’s The Book of Caterpillars, on the other hand, just looks super cool, containing more than 600 full-color, close-up images of some of the most bizarre creatures found in nature. And who knows, throw this on your coffee table and your guests might even learn a thing or two about these fascinating insects, who not only look weird, but perhaps not surprisingly, also possess some of the most complex biology on the planet.
Aaaand speaking of cool, author and cultural historian Joel Dinerstein has literally written the book on the subject, as noted in the WSJ‘s recent “What to Give: Books on Music” column which includes his new book The Origins of Cool in Postwar America.
Uncovering the hidden history of the concept of cool, Dinerstein’s book offers portraits of some of the coolest postwar jazz musicians from Lester Young to Miles Davis but also explores the intersections of other media of the era including film noir, existential literature, and method acting, offering fascinating portraits of influential figures like Jack Kerouac, Albert Camus, Marlon Brando, and James Dean.